New Year of the Trees has seven stanzas of seven lines each, followed by “iubilo” or the Jubilee, echoing the ancient practice of shmita, or cycles of sabbatical years. As described in wikipedia:
The Jubilee (Hebrew: יובל yōḇel; Yiddish: yoyvl) is the year at the end of seven cycles of shmita (Sabbatical years), and according to Biblical regulations had a special impact on the ownership and management of land in the Land of Israel; there is some debate whether it was the 49th year (the last year of seven sabbatical cycles, referred to as the Sabbath’s Sabbath), or whether it was the following (50th) year. Jubilee deals largely with land, property, and property rights. According to Leviticus, slaves and prisoners would be freed, debts would be forgiven, and the mercies of God would be particularly manifest. Leviticus 25:8-13 states:
You shall count off seven Sabbaths of years, seven times seven years; and there shall be to you the days of seven Sabbaths of years, even forty-nine years. Then you shall sound the loud trumpet on the tenth day of the seventh month. On the Day of Atonement you shall sound the trumpet throughout all your land. You shall make the fiftieth year holy, and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee to you; and each of you shall return to his own property, and each of you shall return to his family. That fiftieth year shall be a jubilee to you. In it you shall not sow, neither reap that which grows of itself, nor gather from the undressed vines. For it is a jubilee; it shall be holy to you. You shall eat of its increase out of the field. In this Year of Jubilee each of you shall return to his property. (WEB)
Where anciently there were seven cycles of seven years, followed by the year of liberty, this poem has seven stanzas of seven lines, followed by the jubilee. Note that the jubilee year is in every way a momentous year. According to one biblical translation:
This fiftieth year is sacred—it is a time of freedom and of celebration when everyone will receive back their original property, and slaves will return home to their families.— Leviticus 25:10 (CEV — free translation)
In the jubilee year, the land is redeemed, the slaves are freed, there is a national reconciliation.
Interestingly, the word “Jubilee” has a fascinating etymology, again from wikipedia:
The Septuagint rendered the Hebrew yovel as “a trumpet-blast of liberty” (ἀφέσεως σημασία afeseos semasia), and the Vulgate by Latin iobeleus. Traditionally, it was thought that the English term Jubilee derives from the Hebrew term yobel (via Latin Jubilaeus), which in turn derives from yobhel, meaning ram; the Jubilee year was announced by a blast on a shofar, an instrument made from a ram’s horn, during that year’s Yom Kippur.
An alternative etymology notes that the Latin verb iūbilō, “shout for joy,” predates the Vulgate, and proposes that instead the Latin jubilo (meaning shout), as well as Middle Irish ilach (victory cry), New English yowl, and Ancient Greek iuzo (ἰύζω: shout), derived from the Proto-Indo-European root *yu- (shout for joy). In this theory, the Hebrew term for “jubilee” is a borrowing from neighboring Indo-European languages, rather than deriving from another Hebrew word.
This poem echoes the cycle of shmita and Jubilee, with its seven sets of seven lines (as opposed to seven sets of seven years), and deals with redemption and renewal (among other themes), as did the Jubilee.
Jump to any part of the annotation here (including directly to the stanza by stanza descriptions):
- The conceptual outline of the poem, generally
- The basic layout, in reference to the concept of the jubilee.
- The use of the word “selah”
- The sets of sevens
- A stanza by stanza review of some of what it all meansLinks to the stanzas for their individual “behind the scenes”: